Yes, MAGNIFICATION (Beyond, 2001).
I was only age 33 when Magnification first came into the world. Now, fifteen years later, as I approach age 49, I find myself marveling that this was the last Yes album released with Jon Anderson’s vocals. I’m by no means a Yes purist, but I certainly think of Anderson as synonymous with Yes. Regardless. . . how well has this album held up?
One of the great problems with mixing rock and classical music is the actual choice of traditionally classical instruments employed. When it comes to the staples of rock—bass, drums, and guitar—certain classical instruments work extremely well in accompaniment. Others, not at all, or rarely so. Generally—at least to my untrained ear—deep strings and woodwinds work best with the traditional instruments of rock.
Brass and light strings do little for me, especially when mixed with rock staples. Hence, David Palmer’s 1993, SYMPHONIC MUSIC OF YES, has always sounded like Muzak with a disco beat. A kind of “Hooked on Prog.” It wasn’t good in 1993, and it sounds horrible now.
Squire’s use of classical instruments on his FISH OUT OF WATER (1975), however, has always sounded outstanding and is dated not in the least.
When Yes chose to work with Larry Groupe to compose and orchestrate the classical elements of MAGNIFICATION, they chose the wiser, Squire-esque path. In many ways, MAGNIFICATION is a Yes masterpiece. While nothing Yes does will ever live up—at least to most Yes fans—to what the band produced between 1970 and 1977, Magnification holds up as well as a cohesive album as anything since 1983’s 90125. Like all post-GOING FOR THE ONE albums, MAGNIFICATION has a dud or two, such as “Don’t Go,” but when the album works, it works so well that it really makes up for anything wrong with it.
The first two tracks, especially, capture the spirit of Yes. Coming in at a little over 13 minutes, “Magnification” and “Spirit of Survival” not only soar musically, but they also reach toward the highest of Yes lyrics.
In this world, the gods have lost their way.
When Anderson sings this line, the soul aches from the sheer beauty of the presentation and the meaning. This is not only one of the finest lines in prog and rock, it’s one of the finest lines in modern English. The transition from the first to the second track is also as good a transition as one can find in the prog world, a genre known for its spectacular transitions. “Dreamtime” is another astoundingly good Yes track, equal to any single thing written by Yes between 1970 and 1977.
Back in 2001, the only thing that frustrated me—and it frustrated me immensely—was that Yes had released several different versions of the album, the difference being the bonus tracks (orchestral) that came with each version. Those version, sadly, appeared spefically at Bestbuy, Borders, etc. It seemed like a cheap and very un-Yes like way to make a little extra money. After all, doesn’t Anderson preach something akin to radical socialism and universal spiritual brotherhood? I don’t think that was the message Bestbuy was sending out in 2001. Having recently just had two children born into the family (then), I was in no position to buy more than one version of the album, and the bonus tracks that came with the various versions are now extremely hard to find.
Regardless, the album is spectacular. In some ways, it’s even better than it was 15 years ago, in large part, because unlike so many other releases from Yes as well as from other bands, it has aged so beautifully. If the more or less original Yes had to end, MAGNIFICATION was a very good ending.
11 thoughts on “MAGNIFICATION: Anderson’s Final Yes Album, 2001”
If any album, given the scope of its orchestral “magnitude,” cried out for a Roger Dean cover it’s this one. Well said, Brad.
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While the original Yes came to an end, not with this album, but in 1970, Yes is still going strong. I like both of their last two albums (from 2011 and 2014) better than this one, particularly the 2011 release, Fly From Here.
bull***t. it is not YES’s final album
Joel, I was trying to avoid such reactions! In fact, I thought I bent over backwards to state that I’m NOT a Yes (as in Anderson) purist. Anyway, my apologies.
Just to put things in perspective, the album didn’t sell that well when it first came out. That coloured Jon’s desire to further put their energy into subsequent album releases. When Wakeman returned for 2002-2004 they only released a greatest hits package (with a few “minor” new recordings added on). However they did release a lot of archival material, remasters and DVD’s. As we all know, Rick left (again!!!!) after the 2004 shows and jon chose to do other things essentially putting Yes on hiatus until 2008.
Some of the finest lyrics, all around, ever written by Jon is ” In the Presence of ”
A deeply lyrical masterpiece which ranks up there amongst their finest. Every time I deeply listen to this song, especially with good headphones, I marvel how everybody is simplistic in their instrumentation and time changes, yet everything works well in their song.
Although Chris’s bass seems so simplistic and effortless, the results are magical. Sometimes less is more.
Still very mystifying that the album was released on 9/11/11 and the last 2 verses are reflective of the twin towers.
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Brad, thanks for this. I was in college when Magnification was released and hadn’t really given Yes a chance – I was still listening to all things prog-metal. This album began my discovery of Yes and I kicked myself for not getting into them sooner.
The album “Magnification” is before everything else a work of art of a rock-band with a classical orchestra. In the past there are many examples of it (Deep Purple, Zappa, Porcupine, The Beatles,..). Very often I had mixed feelings about the result because most of the time the orchestral arrngements were pretty flat. And most of the time the band with the singer is too loud in the balance. This is always a great problem for the engineers to get a nice result with so many different players with electric and acoustic instruments.
In the “Magnification” album there are nice orchestral arrangements that makes this album what I should call the classical one. The balance between the electric and the acoustic instruments is well done. Sometimes the woodwind is too silent for me and is the orchestra recorded too general. But never you get the feeling that one of the two groups are more important than the other one. As always there are the strong melodies of Anderson on the lyrics written in a very natural way.Strong pieces are “Magnification”, “Give love each day”, “Dreamtime” and the symfonie “In The Presence Of”.
B.T.W. has anybody heard the bassoonsolo in the beginning of the title song “Magnification”?
Great article, Brad. I think if it wasn’t for the unfortunate release date, Magnification would have done much better. I was listening to it just the other day. PS, I love “Don’t Go.” A nice bit of whimsy that could have been a great single!
Dreamtime is one of my all time favourite yes songs
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